As if some critically-endangered animals’ lives weren’t tough enough, natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Maria can rip through natural ecosystems and cause widespread damage to these animals' homes. Likewise, they can have negative consequences on animal populations; particularly those that are most vulnerable to extinction.
Image Credit: Florida International University
As a new report from Florida International University (FIU) highlights, the Florida grasshopper sparrow and Imperial Amazon are just two examples of animals that are suffering from these kinds of disasters. In fact, the situation is so dire that animal conservationists are taking notice.
There were only an estimated 100 Florida grasshopper sparrows in the wilderness before Hurricane Irma made landfall, but FUI researchers fear that the impact from the storm could have slashed that number significantly.
To help conserve any that may have survived, those researchers are working jointly with government wildlife officials to develop strategic conservation techniques. Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way to determine precisely how many of the birds remain without conducting comprehensive surveys.
Regarding the Imperial Amazon, experts estimate there were about 250 individual birds in the wild before Hurricane Maria made landfall. Native to Dominica, they’ve endured habitat loss and the illegal pet trade for many decades, but efforts to restore populations in recent years seemed to be working.
Nevertheless, Hurricane Maria dealt a swift blow to those efforts. Experts now worry about the setbacks inflicted by the storm, implying that there’s a possibility of imminent extinction.
“The flagship species we have fought to save for so many years may now face imminent extinction,” said conservation biologist and Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) founder Paul Reillo from Florida International University.
Figuring out how many Imperial Amazons remain today will be a tricky task. They were difficult to spot even before the storm because of how elusive they were, but now that their ecosystem went through total decimation, head counts only become more challenging.
The piece stresses just how deleterious natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Maria can be to the conservation of critically-endangered animal species. While it’s unfavorable that things happened how they did, experts must act fast if they’re to have any chance of saving these birds from extinction.
Source: Florida International University